The 'Hills' Have Legs

After taking Even the Hills, the sophomore CD from singer/songwriter Nathan Holscher, for several test drives, I was convinced he was probably in his mid-40s. The element of searching and wanderlust

After taking Even the Hills, the sophomore CD from singer/songwriter Nathan Holscher, for several test drives, I was convinced he was probably in his mid-40s. The element of searching and wanderlust in his lyrics made me think he's probably traveled the world a few times over.

Then I read his bio, which said he was all of 25 years old.

So while it's a bit of a cliché to say Holscher is "wise beyond his years" or an "old soul," this is one case that demands such rote commentary. Working in the medium of acoustic Folk, yet transcending it within his smoky songwriting, Holscher paints vivid pictures within his songs, which are emotionally direct in their storytelling but spectral and airy in their sonic construction. Working with local Grammy-nominated producer Ric Hordinski, Holscher has created an album of dark Americana, falling somewhere between the spaciousness of Joe Henry and the lithe Pop of Damien Rice.

Holscher's voice is the definition of subtle — it's far from an expansive instrument — but it is perfect for his songs, conveying fragility, melancholy and sighing resignation. His low, breathy, almost whispery voice is like a cross between Springsteen in low-key mode and Matt Behringer of current Indie sensations The National. While there are less heavy moments, much of the record swirls around in a sea of sorrow, with Holscher giving voice to those deepest, saddest emotions all of us have. Only he has the talent to turn them into pure poetry.

The album is best taken as a whole, as all of Holscher's songs have the ability to mesmerize and, while tempos change and things do get more direct at times, that "hovering" quality is so hypnotic you might not be able to turn it off. Some highlights include the slow-burning "Locust," which shivers with churning, sparkling acoustic guitar and some ethereal electric guitar haze, and "Hard, High and Blue," an anthem of restlessness with one of the more buoyant choruses on the album (the pedal-steel guitar pixie-dust and shuffle beat make it sound like a traditional Country song played by ghosts).

Holscher gets a lot of great help on this album: Ellery's Tasha Golden lends some perfect vocal harmonies, Josh Seurkamp shows (again) why he's one of the area's more in-demand drummers, Kenny Hollycross works his pedal steel magic, Joe Bolinger provides a textural banjo undertow and Hordinski's trademark guitar wash floats in and out of the mix with great effectiveness. But Holscher's songs remain the heart and soul of the album — and what heart and soul it is. With songs this soulful, it's boggling to think what he'll sound like when he actually is in his mid-40s.

Holscher presents a CD release party at The Comet Saturday. Ellery also performs. The show is free. (Even the Hills, the sophomore CD from singer/songwriter Nathan Holscher, for several test drives, I was convinced he was probably in his mid-40s. The element of searching and wanderlust in his lyrics made me think he's probably traveled the world a few times over.

Then I read his bio, which said he was all of 25 years old.

So while it's a bit of a cliché to say Holscher is "wise beyond his years" or an "old soul," this is one case that demands such rote commentary. Working in the medium of acoustic Folk, yet transcending it within his smoky songwriting, Holscher paints vivid pictures within his songs, which are emotionally direct in their storytelling but spectral and airy in their sonic construction. Working with local Grammy-nominated producer Ric Hordinski, Holscher has created an album of dark Americana, falling somewhere between the spaciousness of Joe Henry and the lithe Pop of Damien Rice.

Holscher's voice is the definition of subtle — it's far from an expansive instrument — but it is perfect for his songs, conveying fragility, melancholy and sighing resignation. His low, breathy, almost whispery voice is like a cross between Springsteen in low-key mode and Matt Behringer of current Indie sensations The National. While there are less heavy moments, much of the record swirls around in a sea of sorrow, with Holscher giving voice to those deepest, saddest emotions all of us have. Only he has the talent to turn them into pure poetry.

The album is best taken as a whole, as all of Holscher's songs have the ability to mesmerize and, while tempos change and things do get more direct at times, that "hovering" quality is so hypnotic you might not be able to turn it off. Some highlights include the slow-burning "Locust," which shivers with churning, sparkling acoustic guitar and some ethereal electric guitar haze, and "Hard, High and Blue," an anthem of restlessness with one of the more buoyant choruses on the album (the pedal-steel guitar pixie-dust and shuffle beat make it sound like a traditional Country song played by ghosts).

Holscher gets a lot of great help on this album: Ellery's Tasha Golden lends some perfect vocal harmonies, Josh Seurkamp shows (again) why he's one of the area's more in-demand drummers, Kenny Hollycross works his pedal steel magic, Joe Bolinger provides a textural banjo undertow and Hordinski's trademark guitar wash floats in and out of the mix with great effectiveness. But Holscher's songs remain the heart and soul of the album — and what heart and soul it is. With songs this soulful, it's boggling to think what he'll sound like when he actually is in his mid-40s.

Holscher presents a CD release party at The Comet Saturday. Ellery also performs. The show is free. (nathanholscher.com)

Rumors, Lies and General Misunderstandings
· One of the best Rock bands in the city during the past decade has decided to call it quits. Death in Graceland has been at it for five years ­ kicking ass, taking names and drinking beer in venues here in town and elsewhere. The band's reason for splitting isn't quite as volatile as its songs are — guitarist Kane Kitchen made the decision to move on, and the other group members decided he was too important to their sound to replace. The group is having one last hurrah at the Mad Hatter Saturday. At the show — featuring opening sets by pals Arms Exploding and Crybaby — DiG will have copies of the album they'd been working on, titled Gifts. The special-edition CD also includes a few other newer tracks and bonus cuts. (myspace.com/deathingraceland)

· Hardcore/Screamo outfit Black Tie Affair is releasing its second album, Chasing the Moon, Friday at the Mad Hatter. (myspace.com/blacktie)

· Kim Taylor and the Mount Pleasant String Band provide the musical entertainment Saturday at a benefit for the urban ecological organization Imago Earth Center in Price Hill. The "Music in the Woods" event kicks off at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 day of the event. (imagoearth.org)



CONTACT MIKE BREEN: mbreen(at)citybeat.com

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